Opinion | A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“For once, I am going to agree with President Trump in his use of his favorite adjective: “huge.”

The agreement brokered by the Trump administration for the United Arab Emirates to establish full normalization of relations with Israel, in return for the Jewish state forgoing, for now, any annexation of the West Bank, was exactly what Trump said it was in his tweet: a “HUGE breakthrough.”

It is not Anwar el-Sadat going to Jerusalem — nothing could match that first big opening between Arabs and Israelis. It is not Yasir Arafat shaking Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn — nothing could match that first moment of public reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

But it is close. Just go down the scorecard, and you see how this deal affects every major party in the region — with those in the pro-American, pro-moderate Islam, pro-ending-the-conflict-with-Israel-once-and-for-all camp benefiting the most and those in the radical pro-Iran, anti-American, pro-Islamist permanent-struggle-with-Israel camp all becoming more isolated and left behind.

It’s a geopolitical earthquake.

To fully appreciate why, you need to start with the internal dynamics of the deal. It was Trump’s peace plan drawn up by Jared Kushner, and their willingness to stick with it, that actually created the raw material for this breakthrough. Here is how.”

Opinion | Lebanon’s Explosion Is Down to Incompetence – By Faysal Itani – The New York Times

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Mr. Itani is a political analyst.

Credit…Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

“My first summer job was at the port of Beirut. It was the late ’90s and I was just a teenager. I spent muggy months entering shipping data as part of an ambitious new program to move the port from analogue to digital log keeping. It was as unglamorous as you would expect from a bottom-rung job in the bowels of a Middle East bureaucracy. But despite the heat and the monotony, there was optimism.

The port was critical infrastructure in an economy rejuvenating after 15 years of civil war. Digital log keeping was part of the future — and an attempt to introduce much-needed order and transparency to a recovering public sector. This was, after all, the same port that had been rendered unusable during the civil war by sunken vessels and unexploded ordnance, save for one area controlled by a militia.

The Lebanon that emerged from that rubble is gone, gradually choked by a cynical political class. Yesterday, it was finished off. The port of Beirut was blown up in an explosion that killed at least 100 people (and counting), wounded more than 4,000 and destroyed blocks of the city. Lebanon now faces a new type of catastrophe for which decades of war and political instability were poor preparation.

By all appearances the port disaster did not involve the usual suspects — Hezbollah, Israel, jihadist terrorism or the government of neighboring Syria. The truth seems to be both duller and more disturbing: Decades of rot at every level of Lebanon’s institutions destroyed Beirut’s port, much of the city, and far too many lives. It is precisely the banality behind the explosion that captures the particular punishment and humiliation heaped on Lebanon.

So far, Lebanese officials are in agreement about what happened, though it’s likely that more than one “official” account will emerge. After all, this is Lebanon, a country deeply divided by politics, religion and history. But here is what we know as of now, according to reporting by credible Lebanese media: Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate unloaded from a disabled vessel in 2014 had been stored in a port warehouse. Then yesterday, a welding accident ignited nearby fireworks — which caused the ammonium nitrate to explode.

Ports are prime real estate for political, criminal and militia factions. Multiple security agencies with different levels of competence (and different political allegiances) control various aspects of their operations. And recruitment in the civilian bureaucracy is dictated by political or sectarian quotas. There is a pervasive culture of negligence, petty corruption and blame-shifting endemic to the Lebanese bureaucracy, all overseen by a political class defined by its incompetence and contempt for the public good.

It’s unclear what combination of these elements let a bomb-in-waiting sit in a warehouse for almost six years, moved fireworks next to it and allowed irresponsible work practices to be carried out nearby. But the catastrophe, while exceptionally severe, is the result of business as usual in Lebanon. The country is familiar with explosions, and it is just as familiar with disasters caused by failures of public services: a garbage crisis that dates back to 2015, an environmental catastrophe in 2019 and power outages this year that last up to 20 hours a day.”

Opinion | Mother Nature Scoffs at Trump’s Mideast Peace Plan – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

 

“TEL AVIV — To get a different perspective on the Trump-Kushner peace plan, I decided to call the best Middle East analyst I know. Her name is Mother Nature.

So, Mother Nature, what did you think of the Deal of the Century?

Well, Tom, not a lot. For starters, it mentioned me in only a few short sentences. Let me take you on a tour of the neighborhood, as I see it. Warning: My maps have no boundary lines, no walls — and no Areas A, B and C in the West Bank.

You can be sure that President Trump, who has declared climate change a hoax, has no idea that the Eastern Mediterranean has experienced drought conditions for 15 of the last 20 years, which is unparalleled in the modern historical record. A recent study by Tel Aviv University predicts that the Eastern Mediterranean will get steadily hotter and drier and gradually lose two months of winter — i.e., rainfall months — within the next 25 years. Meanwhile, in 1948 Israel’s population was 800,000. It’s now 8.7 million. Jordan’s was 450,000. It’s now 10 million. Syria’s was three million, and it’s now 17.5 million. So, the future is steadily more people and less water.

What are the implications?

Israel used to pump up to 500 million cubic meters of water a year out of the Sea of Galilee, a freshwater lake, to meet domestic needs, including for agricultural fields in the south of Israel, to turn the desert green. In 2018, Israel could pump out only 30 million cubic meters!

In the summer of 2018, the Sea of Galilee was so low from droughts and water withdrawals for rising populations that it was threatening to become another saline lake, like the Dead Sea. You remember that Jesus walked on water in the Sea of Galilee? Well, you could have done that, too, because it was so low that two islands were visible in the middle of the lake.”

Opinion | Why I Like Mike – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Christopher Aluka Berry/Reuters

 

“I have a pet theory about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — that it is to wider trends in world affairs what Off Broadway is to Broadway. A lot of stuff seems to get perfected there in miniature — from airline hijackings to suicide bombings, from building walls to keep others out to lone wolf terrorism — and then moves to Broadway, to bigger stages.

So, I ask, what’s playing off Broadway these days? It’s a political drama that may offer a distant mirror on our own presidential politics.

Israel has held two national elections since April, but the country is so perfectly divided that it still hasn’t been able to produce a governing coalition. There are three trends worth noting, though, after these two Israeli elections — especially if you’re President Trump.

First, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu deployed openly racist tropes against Israeli Arabs to motivate his own hard-right base to get out and vote. Israeli Arabs finally had enough and basically said to Bibi: “You talking to us?’’ And in the second election in September they voted in huge numbers and created the third-largest party in Israel, weakening Netanyahu’s ability to form a new government. You never know whom you’re arousing when you start using dog whistles. Just sayin’, Mr. Trump.”

“. . .It was “billionaire’’ Bloomberg who funded the most radical and progressive green agenda of this era.

“Bloomberg’s Beyond Coal partnership with the Sierra Club broke the mold for environmental philanthropy,’’ notes Carl Pope, former head of the Sierra Club and now a partner with Bloomberg on Beyond Coal. “In 2010, 500 coal plants provided half of America’s power, at the price of more than 10,000 lives, staggering volumes of water pollution, and one third of total carbon dioxide emissions. The Sierra Club pitched Bloomberg that they could shut down a third of those plants with a three-year campaign, using grass roots community mobilization and aggressive regulatory interventions.”

Attracted by the combination of lives saved and climate impact, Pope added, “Bloomberg ponied up. Now, nine years and several renewals later, coal provides only a quarter of U.S. power, and retirements of more than half those coal plants have been secured. These retirements are largely responsible for U.S. climate progress over the last decade.’’ The steady fall in the price of gas and renewables was critical in undermining coal, “but Bloomberg’s $500 million for climate mitigation projects was also critical — as was his insistence that the green group, while using its own tool kit, measure its results rigorously.’’

Opinion | The Oslo Accords’ Last Remnants Are Under Fire. Don’t Let Them Die. – By Michael J. Koplow – The New York Times

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Dr. Koplow is an advocate for a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

CreditCreditHazem Bader/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to immediately annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley after Israel’s election on Sept. 17, should he emerge victorious. He further pledged to apply sovereignty to Israel’s settlements throughout the West Bank after President Trump unveils his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

But Mr. Netanyahu’s fortunes and Mr. Trump’s plan may not matter. Under the radar, the Israelis and Palestinians have already set ominous precedents in administering their divided territories that will be extremely difficult to back away from and promise an incendiary environment for any talks about a lasting peace.

In short, the longstanding rules of temporary side-by-side coexistence in the West Bank, as set out under the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, are already being violated, and bit by bit both sides are taking steps that would nullify the remaining vestiges of the accords. If that trend continues, what is shaping events on the ground now may render any type of future division impossible.

Here is the problem: Oslo created clear lines of administrative control in the West Bank for Israel and the Palestinians by dividing the territory into distinct zones in which each side is responsible for day-to-day governing. Areas A and B are under Palestinian Authority administrative control, and Area C is under Israeli administrative control. While there have been numerous and continuing violations by both sides when it comes to security responsibility, that has not been the case with administrative responsibility. Until recently, Israel exercised its administrative control of Area C without attempting to extend its administrative reach into Areas A and B, while the Palestinian Authority ran Areas A and B with respect for Israel’s monopoly on governing Area C.”

 

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Comment at the NYT
Thank you Michael J. Koplow for this disturbing report. Ever since reading “Exodus” by Leon Uris as a teenager, I have been a supporter of Israel. But over decades, the picture has slowly changed, and the victims have become the victimizers.
It is time for the US to stop its $3 Billion subsidy to Israel, or explain what clear purpose it serves. My heart goes out to both sides, but the Palestinians, despite their faults, deserve a place to live.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Can This Man Oust Netanyahu? – By Bari Weiss – The New York Times

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“. . . .  Mr. Lapid is aware of this. “Security will be the first demand every Israeli in his right mind will talk to you about,” he told me.

“There several issues in which the majority of Israelis — 70 to 80 percent — think approximately the same,” he said. “We are all students of the disengagement of 2005, in which Israel did what the world asked us to do. We left Gaza. We dismantled the settlements. And I supported it at the time. But you know what? It was a mistake, doing it unilaterally. The only thing that happened is that less than a year later they voted Hamas into power. We left them with 3,000 greenhouses for them to build an economy and instead they built training camps” for jihadis.

So where does that leave the West Bank? Can the occupation go on indefinitely?

He paused. “It’s a very American question.” Because Americans think “everything is fixable.”

“Really, really wanting something or desiring something strongly is just not enough,” he said. “I’m not willing to see one Jew die because someone took an unnecessary risk in the name of values I really cherish. Like peace, like humanity, like people’s need for self-recognition.” “

via Opinion | Can This Man Oust Netanyahu? – The New York Times

Opinion | Ilhan Omar- Aipac and Me – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

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by Thomas L. Friedman
Opinion Columnist

March 6, 2011248 c
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, on Capitol Hill in January.
Credit
Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“I’ve been watching with more than a little interest the controversial statements about Israel and the Israel lobby by Ilhan Omar, a freshman Democratic congresswoman from the Fifth District of Minnesota, because it turns out that we have a lot in common — up to a point.

The first thing we have in common is that I was raised in the Fifth District of Minnesota, specifically the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. I lived there until I was 20. It was a freaky place — a crazy mix of Minnesota Jews (we called ourselves “the Frozen Chosen’’) and Scandinavians that produced a uniquely tolerant civic culture and an interesting group of neighbors: Al Franken, the Coen brothers, Peggy Orenstein, Norm Ornstein, Michael Sandel, Sharon Isbin, Marc Trestman and lots of others you can find on the St. Louis Park Wikipedia page. Our little town was immortalized in the Coen brothers’ 2009 movie “A Serious Man.’’

I still feel very close to the community there and go home often. St. Louis Park welcomed Jews who wanted to get out of the inner city of Minneapolis back in the 1950s — when other suburbs still had restrictions on selling homes to “Hebrews.’’ So I was proud to see St. Louis Park also welcome Muslim Somali refugees like Omar a half-century later, and then elect her to Congress.

The other thing that Omar and I have in common, as others have noted, is that we both don’t like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) — the organization at the center of the Israel lobby — and have spoken in very blunt language about its strong-arm political tactics.”

via Opinion | Ilhan Omar, Aipac and Me – The New York Times

Opinion | The Broken Pieces of Middle East Peace – by Thomas Friedman – The New York Times

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. .. . An agreement by the Palestinians and America’s Arab allies on their minimum foundations for negotiations, adds Ross, gives Palestinians cover to come back to the table and puts pressure on the Trump team to deliver a credible plan or be exposed as not being serious. And “it gives Israel a partner and some fateful choices to make.”

Say what you will about Anwar el-Sadat and Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter 40 years ago, but they came to a point at Camp David where there were only hard choices — and they made them, and they made the right ones.

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President Jimmy Carter hosted the Egyptian president, Anwar el-Sadat, left, and the Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, right, at the White House in September 1978.CreditAssociated Press
We’re again at a fateful moment. For the Palestinians, it’s choose nihilism or pacifism. For Israel, it’s choose separation from the Palestinians or get bi-nationalism or apartheid. For Jared and Donald, it’s either be serious — and be ready to take a tough stance with all parties, including Israel — or stay home.

Making progress toward peace requires telling everyone the truth, twisting everyone’s arms and not letting any party drive drunk. Not ready for that? Then stick to building condos and golf courses.

via Opinion | The Broken Pieces of Middle East Peace – The New York Times

Opinion | Hamas- Netanyahu and Mother Nature – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

Princess Diana once famously observed that there were three people in her marriage, “so it was a bit crowded.” The same is true of Israelis and Palestinians. The third person in their marriage is Mother Nature — and she’ll batter both of them if they do not come to their senses.

Let’s start with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. If there were an anti-Nobel Peace Prize — that is, the Nobel Prize for Cynicism and Reckless Disregard for One’s Own People in Pursuit of a Political Fantasy — it would surely be conferred on Hamas, which just facilitated the tragic and wasted deaths of roughly 60 Gazans by encouraging their march, some with arms, on the Israeli border fence in pursuit of a “return” to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel.

While the march idea emerged from Palestinian society in Gaza, Hamas seized on it to disguise its utter failure to produce any kind of decent life for the Palestinians there, whom Hamas has ruled since 2007.

You hear people say: “What choice did they have? They’re desperate.” Well, I’ll give you a choice — one that almost certainly would lead to an improved life for Gazans, one that I first proposed in 2011.

via Opinion | Hamas, Netanyahu and Mother Nature – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
Thank you Thomas Friedman, for another useful and informative op-ed. All the comments I read but the NYT pick were extremely negative, but, as Dad said, don’t let the bastards get you down.
I particularly liked your paragraph, “Moreover, the renewable extraction rate for Gaza’s underground aquifer is about 60 million cubic meters of rain water annually, noted Bromberg, but Gazans have been drawing about 200 million cubic meters a year for over a decade, “so the aquifer has gotten drained and seawater has seeped into it, and many people are now drinking water that is both salty and polluted with sewage.””
You are right, mother nature is about to play a big role in Gaza and the entire middle east. You are right to call out the Israelis, since they have the stronger hand, and they have the land of the Palestinians. Overtime, they are a doomed people, if they don’t figure out how to take care of the Palestinians.
Turning Gaza into a smaller Singapore is a good idea. I wonder if it requires a brutal re-occupation of Gaza to wipe out Hamas. It is impossible to support Israel, when they keep taking even more Palestinian land and property through illegal and immoral settlement building. With these new displacements, they act like terrorists in their own obnoxious way.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

Opinion | Gaza’s Miseries Have Palestinian Authors – by Bret Stephens – NYT

For the third time in two weeks, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have set fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing, through which they get medicine, fuel and other humanitarian essentials from Israel. Soon we’ll surely hear a great deal about the misery of Gaza. Try not to forget that the authors of that misery are also the presumptive victims.

There’s a pattern here — harm yourself, blame the other — and it deserves to be highlighted amid the torrent of morally blind, historically illiterate criticism to which Israelis are subjected every time they defend themselves against violent Palestinian attack.

In 1970, Israel set up an industrial zone along the border with Gaza to promote economic cooperation and provide Palestinians with jobs. It had to be shut down in 2004 amid multiple terrorist attacks that left 11 Israelis dead.

In 2005, Jewish-American donors forked over $14 million dollars to pay for greenhouses that had been used by Israeli settlers until the government of Ariel Sharon withdrew from the Strip. Palestinians looted dozens of the greenhouses almost immediately upon Israel’s exit.

via Opinion | Gaza’s Miseries Have Palestinian Authors – The New York Times

David Lindsay:  A strong and effective argument by Bret Stephens.  I remain unconvinced. Here are two comments I recommended:

Jeffrey Waingrow
Sheffield, MA

On the face of it, this is a reasonably compelling argument. But It would be even more persuasive if Mr. Stephens would explain how the continuing building of settlements is not a provocation that realistically says to the Palestinians that they have no future. I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument to justify the building of settlements in contested areas.

 

Rob commented May 16

R
Rob

The Israelis have all the power and with power comes responsibility. The Palestinians have zero power and nothing to lose. That is why I have expectations of the Israelis. They are supposed to be better than this and have a lot more to lose.